anxiety · bad habits · coping mechanisms · overthinking things · social anxiety

Tempted to Cancel

I’m here again, in the situation of having signed up for an upcoming volunteer project, only to get cold feet in the hours before. Why? Because I’m irrationally scared of a million things will go wrong if I actually go. Sometimes I curse how technology has made communicating so much simpler. With a few taps on my phone, I can email someone to apologize for the short notice but that I am canceling due to a “personal emergency”. I can’t count how many times I’ve sent that email in the last month for a lot of volunteer projects I’ve signed up for and then my nerves over being around people and talking to them kick in before I drive myself nuts with overthinking about all the possible (and impossible) situations that could happen if I go. Generally, I convince myself that I will 100%, without a doubt make a fool out of myself in front of people.

I am writing this post now because I’m fighting against these irrational thoughts and I don’t know if I can hold the dam back to keep it from flooding. I am so tempted to tap, tap, tap out another sorry excuse of an email message stating that I’ve canceled and then hit send in order to release myself from this state of heightened anxiety. It’d be so easy to give in and let my plans for tomorrow slip away like this, but I know if I cancel, I’ll feel terrible in the aftermath about my choice and sit at home wondering what would’ve happened had I gone instead of being such a scaredy cat.

When I really think about why I sign up for these projects in the first place, it’s not to force myself to interact with people because I feel I must do it. It’s that I actually have a genuine like for helping people and a part of me longs to build close connections, even though talking to people terrifies me. It’s not like I expect to make friends through these projects, but I’d be happy even establishing a personal acquaintance with a couple of people, like getting to work with them every now and then and getting along as we work together to finish something on the job. I feel most pathetic to say I don’t have any acquaintances I can count on for, like let’s say if I had to list personal or professional references on a job application. Either I don’t have anyone to list or I’m too embarrassed to send a cordial email to people asking if I can list them simply because I’ve been out of contact with them for so long.

I feel guilty thinking about canceling because of my social anxiety fears. I avoid a situation without giving other people a chance or allowing myself a chance to experience things and see how it goes.

If you’ve ever been in a similar struggle like I am now, what advice do you have for me? How do I stay on the path through this dark tunnel and keep going towards the light, when I’m experiencing anxiety and my mind tricks me into believing the light is not where I should go, and that actually I should just turn back and give up?

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13 thoughts on “Tempted to Cancel

  1. I went through a similar situation last year. I signed up months prior and then they got in touch with me and I was like, ‘how do I get our of this?!’. A miracle came in the form of a scheduling snafu but wait – they just put me down to do something else. I begged someone to go with me, but in the end, it was that fear of letting the people down that got me to go. I figured that I’d just suffer through it. Plus, I wanted to finally prove that I could actually do something by myself without needing someone to hold my hand.

    In the end, it wasn’t even that bad. I enjoyed it! I tend to try to project a more confident persona of myself when I’m around new people or situations. Especially if you’ll never see them again, treat it like you’re in a play and your role is to do this project. They don’t know you, or need to know that you have this anxiety so in a way.. that can be liberating.

    When it’s over, you can go back to being yourself.

    I think that you have to force yourself to go essentially. The panic will come but is it any worse than the disappointment you’ll feel if you don’t go? Not really.

    Hope this helps!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for such detailed feedback. I would say, yes, the disappointment I feel when I don’t go is worse than the anxiety I feel when I’m there. The disappointment will linger and then I’ll always wonder what could’ve been had I gone, while the anxiety always comes down and stops at some point after I face the situation.

      The tough thing is knowing how invested I felt in going through with this project at the time I was in the works planning it. And then now that the date is happening tomorrow, I’m freaking the f*ck out. 😐 I also feel pretty ridiculous because I enjoy volunteering, and I hate myself for letting social anxiety dictate and get in the way of my own interests. This is why I feel like I’m never going to get anywhere in life… I will have to see how things go tomorrow.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aw, I get that! This time last year I was in the same boat but I’ve talked to so many people in the past few months that I know the mindset I have to be in to deal with strangers. Most people really aren’t that interested in us, they’re far too self absorbed 😛

        If you’re invested then it’s a matter of ranking how you feel. Does your investment outweigh the anxiety you feel over it? I know it’s hard but sometimes you have to push yourself because no one else will.

        Aw, well SA is a bish that’s born out of a lot of things. It’s not your fault and you’re not letting it dictate you. You just need to get to that point where you’re ready to leave you’re comfort zone.

        One thing you can do is maybe just write a brief list of things that you think will go wrong or why you feel apprehensive and then write a counter argument for each point? I used to do something similar and it helped.

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  2. I use my sinking boat analogy. A boat is sailing through the Caribbean the weather is nice the seas are calm and the bad fish are somewhere else. All of the sudden the boat starts to sink. There’s a warning siren. The captain gets on the radio and has panic in his voice. The people start to hustle around on the decks. There are people flinging themselves at the lifeboats and life preservers. What do you do?

    The knee jerk reaction is to do what everybody else is doing and panic, running for the nearest man made source of survival. The water is deep and unknown. There is no telling what will happen to you once you are in the water. Yet we all forget this one simple thing: We can swim. In fact you’ve probably done it a million times before just for fun.

    I use this analogy to point out to myself that I shouldn’t be afraid of something happening unexpected around strange people. I will be just as alive after the get together as before. And if I’m around trustworthy people, they might even lend a hand, or throw me a life preserver.

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  3. I removed volunteering as an option a long time ago but it was for many reasons. Recently though there is an equine program that sounded interesting so I signed up for that. I will go every other Saturday and do things like groom horses. Because of my back I can’t muck stalls obviously but am hoping this can possibly become a weekly thing. It’s a more solitary activity, and the best part, it’s with animals which I love. I used to volunteer at the botanical garden. I stood there for several hours putting plants into pots with the most luxurious soil one has ever felt. Sadly it is way too far away now and I couldn’t manage it physically anymore. I have wonderful memories though. I was always terrified they were going to come in and yell at me that I was doing everything wrong but it was worth the discomfort for the benefit of working with wonderful plants.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wish I could groom horses too. That sounds like a great and relaxing opportunity to take care of horses in a low stress environment.

      Yeah, that gardening opportunity sounds like it’d be right up my alley lol. I signed up to one, but I had to pick a date in advance to come in for the orientation, which isn’t until May. Too bad I can’t start right away. I’d love to get paid work as a gardener but not sure if it’ll ever pane out if I only do volunteer work as a gardener. I think I will be worried too that people will yell at me for doing things wrong. It’s always such a persistent fear.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I completely understand. I haven’t been around horses in decades and never groomed them so this will be a new experience. Me and my cousins all went to my aunts horse ranch in the summer for 3 weeks when I was little. Looking back it was more like free labor for her since we (gladly) did all the dirty work. The only think I refused to do was get eggs from the roost. I hate birds, mostly because I’m afraid of them.

        If you ever did get a job gardening, having a period of volunteer work under your belt would make you more desirable to a future employer! I found gardening to be restorative to my very being. It was hard giving it up. I don’t focus on that part so much as the fact that I had wonderful experiences. It may be over but how many people can say they volunteered at CSA farm for almost 5 years!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Being on a ranch sounds awesome. I would’ve loved to do that kind of manual labor. Maybe I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as a kid since I was unfamiliar around animals. I might’ve been scared to take eggs from chickens too. The closest I’ve been to a farm was going to on a school trip as a child. I remember everyone had the chance to milk a cow but I was too scared to try. I had a pet chicken once. It’s a weird story. She was just a little yellow chick when I saw her and my family and I raised her into a hen. She laid eggs but always pecked them until they broke lol. I remember she liked eating three leaf clovers. Chickens can be quite intimidating looking. I may have the chance to be around chickens for real soon for a farm volunteer opportunity. I think I’ll be wary about the chickens pecking out my eyes lol.

        I’ll have to see how the gardening goes when I start. I sure hope I will pick up on it quickly. I’ve always wanted to find my niche in life, like how some people talk about following their dream and having a passion for their job. Maybe gardening will be it for me.

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      3. I volunteered at a CSA (community supported agriculture). I know they took on interns every year beside the volunteers. Maybe you can check if there’s any CSAs near you. I think the intern positions were paid, and they had the option of living on the farm too. Obviously they would all be different but it might be worth checking out. The interns all branched off into other areas after their stint; working on the farm helped them make decisions about their futures. It was interesting to watch. Just found this:
        http://www.csacoalition.org/get-involved/work-a-farm/ I wish I knew about this when I was younger. It makes me wonder if my life would have gone a whole other direction.

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  4. The best advice I was given is that it’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be. And it’s always turned out to be true for me.

    The important thing is to understand the reasons why you don’t want to do something. If your reasons are logical, ie health & safety concerns, then you should definitely get out. If your reasons are illogical, ie “I don’t wanna”, then you should consider going through with the commitment.

    Also, your emotional state is very important. Are you going to be upset if you do it? Or are you going to enjoy learning new things and meeting new people?

    Don’t feel like you have to force yourself into doing something just because you “should” or just because you already promised someone. Your mental state is more important.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the great feedback. For sure, I waver between “I don’t wanna” or feeling like I’m on the verge of a panic attack if I force myself to go through with it. There have been definite times I’ve felt very anxious about going but I still had the motivation to actually go because the activity I was putting myself in was something I enjoy. I find it’s more hard for me to do something if it’s the very first time I’m going to be in whatever situation it is. Those times, I get anxious trying to envision what might happen there. My imagination gets so wild and irrational, but the more I think of those what-ifs, the more I start to believe those crazy scenarios, no matter how impossible they may seem, might happen if I go. 😦 I’ve ruined many situations for myself by thinking this way.

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      1. I experience this also. I just let myself be worried but I do the thing anyway. What calms me is the thought that I can always leave. This has allowed me to try new workout classes, see performances or walk my dogs. I can always just leave and go home and I have done that a few times. This gives me enough courage to try new things.

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      2. True, there is always the option of leaving if things get to be too much. I can’t say if I’d be comfortable doing that if, let’s say, I showed up for an event where I’m sitting in a room with 20 other people and we’re listening to someone talk for an hour, but halfway through I start feeling anxious and feel the need to gtfo. In this situation, I provably would stay glued in my seat instead of leaving just because I’ll panic about the attention I might draw from people if I grab my stuff and go without saying a word to anyone.

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